Dark days on Fountain Street

With a parting shot, MacKay joins the exodus from the once-mighty BeloJo
By PHILLIPE AND JORGE  |  August 27, 2008

There are black umbrellas in the poolside Pernod and grapefruits at Casa Diablo upon our having learned that ace reporter Scott MacKay has taken the Urinal’s buyout package. He’ll be leaving the august Fountain Street fortress in September — if he makes it that long, in what rapidly resembles a mausoleum in the heart of Our Little Towne.

Scottso is as close to a local hero around here as you can get in media circles, tracking back to the old days at the Providence Night School of Journalism, aka Leo’s. His off-the-record and certainly not in print discourses on all things Little Rhody are legendary. He’s the one who deemed the rise to the bench of a now-prominent judge “a real Fellatio Alger story,” and who filled people in on what a “goomah” or “comatta” was (or who had one) long before Tony Soprano hit HBO and prior to Guy Dufault popularizing the latter word in regard to the Don, Governor Carcieri.

Never mind the Olympic closing ceremonies in Beijing — if you wanted some real showtime pyrotechnics, one needed have only read Scottso’s parting shot against his soon-to-be former rag of record. Here are a couple of the sweetest stilettos in the side of the Fountain Street suits, as MacKay folded his hand:

“As is the case with many other employees here, I do believe the [overall newspaper] situation in Providence was made worse by an incompetent management in Dallas that frittered away millions on the hapless Que-Cat [:CueCat], blew millions more on a circulation scandal and wasted more money and resources waging a foolish four-year Jihad on the Providence Newspaper Guild.

“The emphasis has been on the web site, which would be fine if the same standards applied to the web as those that govern the newspaper . . . . Just recently there were two ridiculous examples of how the standards of the Providence Journal have dropped. One was a racist comment published [as a comment] on our web site after the death of Eileen Slocum.” [The other, later deleted, was also a blog comment, about a Rhode Island athlete.] “The newspaper has apparently diluted its standards to the point where none should call it journalism.”

The departure of our man MacKay, P+J’s personal emotions notwithstanding, is immeasurable in terms of a loss — once more — of institutional memory at the BeloJo. With long-time editor Joel Rawson out the door, Carol Young possibly following, and political maven M. Chuckie Bakst riding into the sunset along with Scottso, decades of experience, knowledge, insider info and Vo Dilun lore vanish from the newsroom.

Yes, there are very talented and bright young people who may replace these seasoned vets (at lower pay and in fewer numbers, thank you). But as our old pal, the Bud-I, pointed out recently, when he referenced the venerated queen of Providence preservation, the late Antoinette Downing, to a new Urinal reporter, the writer didn’t know her from a pole dancer at Cheaters.

We can only pray that Bob Kerr, Kathy Gregg, Peter Lord, Bill Malinowski and Mike Stanton, and Bob Whitcomb on the editorial page, along with others who for decades have brought such high quality to the pages of the Other Paper have the guts and finances (we know they have the pride) to hang on, and keep up the good fight for the paper’s honor and integrity.

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